Church of Our Saviour

21 Marathon Street | Arlington, Massachusetts | 781-648-5962

Future for Farato

Future for FaratoI don’t know about you but I am often left dismayed and distressed when I read in the daily newspaper about all the suffering and poverty in the world. It is too much to bear sometimes and I will admit that I often find it easier to tune it out, to turn the page, to look for some pleasurable escape, especially during the lazy days of summer. I try to include troubled spots in my prayers but it seems a bit rote–does God really need my reminding that things are out of balance? No, it is me who needs reminding but then I don’t want to be reminded because I can’t do anything. So, I must leave it all in God’s hands, right?

And, then, I talk to my neighbors Ellen and Dennis. They have fallen in love, passionately and actively in love–with the people of Farato, a small village in Gambia, one of the poorest countries in West Africa.

Here is how it started. Ellen is an artist. Her husband Dennis, a Vietnam veteran, is retired. Both are in their early 60s. They own a large house and decided to host foreign students studying in the United States. One of these students was Biran Sallah, from Gambia, the smallest country in Africa and a former British colony. Both Ellen and Dennis enjoy traveling and decided to visit him in Farato when he returned home. They had never been to Africa before but they expected that they would see real poverty and they did. What they did not expect to discover was how easily they fell in love with the people of Farato, not as victims but as real individuals with families, wanting the best for their children.

There was a problem in Farato, however. The nearest school was six kilometers away and that was a long way for the children to walk back and forth each day. Dennis asked why the children didn’t just ride a bicycle to school liked he had done as a young boy. he reply? There was no money for bicycles; the average income in Gambia is only $350. Dennis nodded and then fretted … “if only these children had bikes”… and when he and Ellen returned home, he decided to fix up the two old bikes stored in his garage and to ship them to Farato. Ellen organized the photos she had taken in Farato into a slide show and at our neighborhood pot luck dinners she showed them, telling the story. One of the neighbors wanted to help but had no bicycle to offer. Instead she suggested raising money to buy bikes and, well, the whole thing snowballed from there. Ellen set up a web site and arranged a fundraiser at a local restaurant. Progress is being made. Right now 25 village children have bikes and attend school for the first time. There are 77 others waiting for their bikes so that they, too, can go to school.

Ellen and Dennis continue to visit Farato–in this African village, these two ordinary people who live on my street in West Roxbury are enabling kids to go to school. In the process, they have been changed as well into advocates for outreach and connection across continents. All it took was a willingness to fall in love.

I invite you to take a look at Ellen’s photos at www.futureforfarato.com, and to keep their work in your prayers. I invite us all to be open, too, to those unexpected loves and places where we, ordinary people, can serve as the hands of God.

Girl with Bicycle

— Terry Hofmann
Terry is the author of a series of occasional columns in our newsletter in which she shares with COS her continuing journey in formation as a permanent deacon. Terry has been a frequent contributor to Loaves and Fishes, often writing about mission, service opportunities, and linking us to interesting talks and events. Her columns will continue this tradition and give her free rein to talk about whatever is on her mind and heart.

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